Pinal sheriff wants to add motorcycle unit - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Pinal sheriff wants to add motorcycle unit

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Posted: Thursday, February 19, 2009 3:46 pm | Updated: 2:23 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office is looking for money to start its first motorcycle squad.

The agency is looking at starting the unit because of the county's growing population centers, such as Johnson Ranch, Gold Canyon and unincorporated county areas outside of Queen Creek and Casa Grande.

Those areas are where motorcycles are best used rather than on the open and often undeveloped roads of the rural areas. "Street bikes aren't conducive to riding on dirt roads," said Lt. Tamatha Villar, sheriff's spokeswoman.

The sheriff's office estimates it will spend $40,000 to create the unit, which would initially include the purchase of two motorcycles and accompanying gear for the riders.

There would be five officers and a sergeant.

Villar said the agency is looking for a grant from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety or possibly money seized from criminals.

Another possibility would be to use the agency's annual vehicle fund.

The agency is allotted a certain amount each year to buy new cars, and two motorcycles would cost about the same as one car, Villar said.

If all goes according to plan, the officers would begin training by July.

Detective Ed Wessing, a Mesa police spokesman who spent three years as a motorcycle officer, said there are a multitude of advantages when it comes to using motorcycles in traffic enforcement.

Their maneuverability is a huge plus, Wessing said.

They can move safer through traffic when racing to catch up with speeders and they can whip a U-turn in an instant compared to a car.

They can park almost anywhere and go almost anywhere, Wessing said.

Motorcycles are also useful as escorts for VIPs such as when President Obama came to Mesa, in parades and police funerals.

Motorcycle officers have an easier time of looking inside a car as they pass it to look for violations than someone in a squad car.

And the officers come into contact with more people on a daily basis than other officers, which allows them to make all sorts of discoveries such as finding people wanted on warrants or carrying drugs.

"It's just a good tool for all kinds of traffic enforcement," Wessing said.

The motorcycle squad is just one component of the sheriff's office's expansion of its traffic unit, which so far has only two deputies and two supervisors.

The Traffic Unit is also organizing its first DUI Task Force in decades with police departments in Pinal County.

DUI task forces have become a fixture in Maricopa County during holidays and other high-profile events such as the Super Bowl and the recently played NBA All-Star game and they result in hundreds of arrests each year.

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